Attorneys: Mexico's legal system is improving despite jailed Valley mom

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Attorneys who deal with cross-border issues say the Arizona mother who says she's wrongly jailed in Mexico should be able to get a fair trial.

"Yes, police officers can be bribed, but things have changed in Mexico and for the better," attorney Daniel Ortega told 3TV.  He provides legal advice to the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix.

"As in any country, if you get caught in a situation where you've been framed, you have to defend yourself against it," he said.

Ortega said bribery and corruption still exist in the Mexican legal system, from police officers to court officials, but he said the case of Yanira Maldonado is literally one in a million.

"Generally when you go to Mexico, you're not going to be faced with violence, corruption or a frame-up. But could it happen? Yes," Ortega said.

The Maldonados were advised by their first attorneys to bribe the courts with $5,000. It did not work and attorneys say it was the wrong move.

"It is certainly not the advice I give my clients," attorney Carlos Sugich told 3TV from Los Cabos, Mexico. Sugich works for Phoenix-based Snell & Wilmer and runs the firm's branch in Mexico.

"I don't advise anyone to buy their way out of any situation," Sugich said. "It could only hurt you."

The Maldonado case is being watched by people on both sides of the border, who hope the judge punishes the officers if it's proven they were only after a bribe.

"In this case, if there was planting of evidence and corruption, I hope the authorities get to the bottom of it," Sugich said.

The military officers who say they found 12 pounds of marijuana on Maldonado will testify on Wednesday.